2014 Charitable Giving by Source
according to Giving USA:
If your group is not a 501(c)(3), you will need a fiscal sponsor. A fiscal sponsor is a non-profit tax-exempt organization engaged in activities consistent with your organization’s mission that is willing to accept grants or donations on your behalf. A fiscal sponsor may require a contractual agreement defining the terms of your relationship and may also require administrative fees for overseeing your funds. These fees can vary but you could expect to pay on average between 5-7%. Be sure to find out what the fees are up front and work that cost into your grant budget. To find a sponsor, approach nonprofits with a similar mission and the capacity to manage your funds. Groups with a formal structure and a history of success are more likely to find a fiscal sponsor. Some nonprofits will act as a fiscal sponsor for groups they are familiar with and charge no fee or a very low fee.
Applying for Grants
Groups that have a fiscal sponsor or are a 501(c)(3) are able to apply for grants from individuals, foundations and corporations and allow donors to take a tax deduction on their donation. Two great resources for locating grants and grantmakers are the Foundation Center and Grantmakers of Western PA. There may be a Common Grant Application for your region that you can fill out and use for multiple grant applications. This can greatly reduce your workload and allow you to apply for multiple grants.
The Foundation Center has “Funding Information Network” centers located across the U.S. where you can use their database to research funders without paying for a subscription. Check to see if one is offered near you using their map. Philanthropy News Digest, a resource of the Foundation Center, also lists currently active Request for Proposals (RFPs) from funding agencies on a wide range of topics, such as Environment and Health. You can subscribe to their newsletters/alerts and visit their website here.
When searching for grants, look for grantmakers who are funding the type of work you are doing in the areas in which you are working. Research the foundation's mission because they may ask you how your project fits their mission when you apply for funding. This information can usually be found on the foundation's website, along with specific details about how to apply. In some instances, foundations may not accept unsolicited applications or may have set application deadlines. Some foundations will require you to submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) before submitting a proposal. You should always follow the specific requirements set forth by an individual foundation. If possible, getting on a phone call with someone at the foundation or funding agency to briefly introduce yourself and your organization and discuss the program you are seeking funding for is a great way to see if it’s a good fit and shows the funder that you’re being proactive in your funding approach. It can also save you a lot of time if you discover that it is not a good fit before preparing a full application.
Donations & Fundraising
Soliciting donations within your community has a dual benefit as it allows you to engage with small businesses, churches and nonprofits to build community support for your mission while fundraising for your group. Donations of goods and services can be used at fundraising events or online auctions, gift cards or money can be used to cover operational costs, and in-kind donations of services can defray the expenses your group would have paid for a similar service. Donations may qualify as a tax deduction for the donor, so be sure to follow the IRS guidelines to provide receipts and document contributions.
Pennsylvania has very specific laws regarding fundraising. For example, your organization must have an active status for at least onea year before obtaining a small games of chance license which is required for fundraisers such as a 50/50, silent auction, or chinese auction. This is why it is important to keep good documentation of your organizing efforts in a binder along with other organizational information such as bylaws and list of board members. See additional guidelines here.
Many small groups working to fight the harms of fracking are often hard-pressed to effectively raise adequate funds. Given the needs, many advocates fighting the harms of gas development and fracking have turned to direct appeals in online crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe to help cover costs of everything from legal fees to fighting permits to water and air testing. Make sure you understand the pros and cons of each platform as they have varying rules and fees.
Crowdfunding is an alternative fundraising path for groups that might not be able to tap into a small number of wealthy benefactors. It’s often considered more “democratic” because you have more people contributing small amounts of money to a cause, as opposed to depending on a few wealthier individuals (which is not always very sustainable). However, there is a clear pro/con list one must go through in order to find out if crowdfunding is right for your group.
Halt the Harm Network is a good resource to help you decide if crowdfunding is the right tool for you, and if it is, they can help you start your first campaign. Halt the Harm’s crowdfunding service involves one-on-one strategy and support to leaders who apply for the service. Learn more here.
Keep in mind that most successful crowdfunding campaigns are active on short timescales. The actual collection of donations typically happens in 30 days or less. However, the prep work typically lasts much longer.
H: Funding Your Efforts
Your group status will determine your ability to find funding for your work. Please click here to determine whether your group is required to register with the Pennsylvania Department of State's Bureau of Charitable Organizations.
Informal groups often rely on members sharing the costs of the group with strategies such as “passing the hat” to collect money at a meeting or event. However, groups with a formal structure have greater access to grants from foundations and other non-profits. This section offers guidance for different types of groups seeking funding and ideas for next steps to pursuing those opportunities.
Direct Support Fund
Though most grants do require a fiscal sponsor or 501(c)(3) status, the Direct Support Fund was created to support individuals and organizations working toward social change initiatives on shale gas issues regardless of a group’s status. The Direct Support Fund was made possible by The Heinz Endowments, The Chorus Foundation, New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, and The 11th Hour Project, and is a project of Mountain Watershed Association. The fund has provided more than $80,000 to the grassroots since August 2014 for expenditures associated with community organizing, education and outreach, science and research, and legal advocacy. Please visit here to learn more or apply.